Congress grants martial law extension until end of 2019

MANILA —  The Philippine Congress on Wednesday overwhelmingly voted to extend martial law in Mindanao for the entire 2019.

The Senate and House of Representatives, convening in a joint session, granted President Rodrigo Duterte’s request for the extension of martial law and the suspension of the privilege ofthe writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao for a period of one year, from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2019.

A total of 235 members of Congress voted to approve the motion to further extend the proclamation of martial law in Mindanao for another year, while only 28 voted against it. There was only one abstention.

On the part of the Senate, a total of 12 senators voted in favor of the motion, five were against it, and only one abstained.

As for the House, 223 representatives approved the motion and 23 rejected it. No congressman abstained.

Under the Constitution, the Congress, voting jointly, has the sole power to extend martial law. A majority vote of the two chambers is needed to pass the motion.

Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. said the House believes that the security assessment submitted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to the President “indubitably” shows the “continuing rebellion in Mindanao,” which compels the further extension of martial law.

In his letter to Congress dated Dec. 6, Duterte cited the security assessment submitted by the AFP and the PNP, indicating that rebellion still persists in Mindanao and that public safety requires the continuation of martial rule in the area.

Duterte said terrorist groups, such as the Abu Sayyaf Group, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and Daulah Islamiyah continue to defy the government by perpetrating hostile activities during the extended period of martial law.

“A further extension of the implementation of martial law and suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao will enable the AFP, the PNP, and all other law enforcement agencies to finally put an end to the ongoing rebellion in Mindanao and continue to prevent the same from escalating in other parts of the country,” Duterte said in his letter.

“We cannot afford to give the rebels further breathing room to regroup and strengthen their forces. Public safety indubitably requires such further extension in order to avoid the further loss of lives and physical harm, not only to our soldiers and the police, but also to our civilians,” he added.

Duterte placed Mindanao under martial law on May 23, 2017, following attacks launched by the terrorist Maute Group in Marawi City.

At the height of the six-month Marawi conflict in July last year, the House granted Duterte’s request for martial law extension until Dec. 31, 2017.

The House and the Senate granted anew the President’s request for the extension of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus for a year, from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2018. (PNA)